Somme: May Trench Raid – death of a great great uncle

Tonight is the one hundreth anniversary of the death of my great great uncle during a German bombardment of the trenches after a succesful trench raid by the Ulstermen – a talk was recently held in the Masonic Hall (the old Tamlaght  / St Lukes Church of Ireland Church Hall), Coagh on Private Robert Sands and other men from Coagh who died in the Great War. In this centenary year of the Battle of the Somme the tragic and brutal slaughter of the Great … Read more

“Provisional IRA members believe the Provisional Army Council oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy.”

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has published the  assessment of “the structure, role and purpose of paramilitary groups focusing on those which declared ceasefires in order to support and facilitate the political process”.  Theresa Villiers’ statement to Parliament is here. The letter to the Secretary of State [pdf file] from the independent reviewers confirming the completion of their assessment is also available. We are satisfied that: i) MI5 and PSNI have engaged fully with us, consistent with their duties and constraints: … Read more

Jonathan Powell: The Lessons of Northern Ireland

Following the launch of his new book ‘Talking to Terrorists,” former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell, writes exclusively for Slugger about the lessions he learned from his time working on the Northern Ireland peace process The Northern Ireland negotiations were the most difficult and frustrating challenge I faced in my life, but also, at least in retrospect, my most important and satisfying achievement. Since leaving government I have set up an NGO, Inter Mediate, to … Read more

Forget ethnic thematics: a straightforward response to Billy Hutchinson

Billy Hutchinson’s explanation for his sectarian murders has been covered below by David McCann. Unfortunately they degenerate into concepts like “Truth recovery”, “ethnic thematics” and such like. The News Letter have provided somewhat more direct responses. From the News Letter: Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said that Mr Hutchinson’s attempted justification of his murders “bore all the hallmarks of the same sick delusional thinking that is prevalent within the republican movement”. Referring to the UVF slogan ‘For God and … Read more

McGuinness: in the city of Belfast the UVF, the PUP and the Orange Order are one and the same thing // Robinson responds to the “dictator” deputy First Minister

The moment that draft seven of the Haass proposals went into the shredder may well have been at 10:45pm when BBC NI’s The View broadcast deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness telling Mark Carruthers: Mainstream unionist elected representatives have told me that they accept my analysis that in the city of Belfast the UVF, the PUP and the Orange Order are one and the same thing … I believe it needs to be challenged. Just as I have challenged those so-called … Read more

BBC Spotlight on how the peace process continues to cover for the ‘bad’ UVF

Spotlight last night, if you missed it, is well worth a catch up.  Ostensibly about the resurgence of the UVF, particularly in east Belfast, in the process it also exposed some of those poisonous foundations of the Peace Process™ era. Stephen Dempster claims he spoke to two dozen people all of whom were too afraid to talk on camera about the influence of the UVF in Belfast. Men with guns or access to guns tend to be uncompromising with their critics. … Read more

The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there #spotlightNI

If you have not watched last night’s Spotlight programme I would strongly urge you to do so. In our drive to project a modern and peaceful Northern Ireland, we sometimes forget about some of the criminality that still plagues our province. Stephen Dempster’s report leaves a lot of questions for the PSNI, politicians and the rest of civic society to answer. 15 years on from the Good Friday Agreement we still have not fully taken the gun out of our … Read more

Loyalist terrorists and this summer’s mayhem

Summer in Northern Ireland has for a very long time been associated with heightening of sectarian problems and criminality. This year has been as bad as many for some time. Throughout this summer the media and others have held a number of organisations and individuals to account over this. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with this holding to account tends to depend on one’s social / political / sectarian position. So far we have had Ruth Patterson repeatedly criticised for … Read more

The PUL Community and the Peace Process: An Audit

The third session of the all day PSA/Fellowship of Messines workshop – Has the Protestant Working Class lost out in the Peace Process? – looked at the peace process through the eyes of two loyalist leaders and an academic. Strong views on the Social Investment Fund, how paramilitary actions gave unionists confidence in the peace process, loyalism being equated with criminality, loyalists’ sacrifices for peace, the tsunami of hate and bigotry that came out of the flag protests, and the … Read more

Peter Hain: “I took some risky decisions to engage with people who were on the fringes…”

The BBC reports more self-aggrandisement disguised as political comment from the erstwhile Secretary of State for Wales, etc, Peter Hain.  From the BBC report “In Northern Ireland, I think there is a particular issue with the loyalist community and I do not think the government is doing enough to engage with them,” [Peter Hain] said. “I took some risky decisions to engage with people who were on the fringes and some actually almost in uniform as it were, in paramilitary … Read more

UVF protests signal anxiety over pending supergrass trial?

This morning on RTE Tommie Gorman put his finger on something that’s been little talked about in the wider media so far regarding the unanticipated levels of street protest. In fact it has little to do with the politics of City Hall and everything to do with the HET putting a tight squeeze on the UVF. In particular minds in that organisation are being concentrated by the re-emergence of the supergrass trial format. In particular the position of Gary Haggarty: … Read more

UVF campaign of ‘flying riots’ leaves Unionists isolated…

All’s far in love and war. Sammy Wilson’s intemperate allusion on UTV last night to his own Justice Minister being carried around in a police landrover might have landed more squarely if there wasn’t a series of ‘flying riots’  going on around the place. Today there’s talk of more disruption, yet to be confirmed, in Glengormley. In the meantime, it seems the only paramilitary organisation yet identified by the PSNI are the UVF, whose own political party the PUP at … Read more

Book Review: The McGurk’s Bar Bombing

The McGurk’s Bar Bombing: Collusion, Cover-Up and a Campaign for Truth with a foreword by Colin Wallace, just published by Frontline Noir, is the first book by Ciarán MacAirt, grandson of one of those killed in the bombing and  the most visible campaigner on behalf of the victims and their families. The book pulls together the results of Ciarán’s searches in various archives, responses to FOI requests and dealings with the Chief Constable of the PSNI and the Policing Ombudsman on behalf of … Read more

PSNI told Asda bosses: Don’t remove tributes to sectarian killer

In today’s Irish News*, Connla Young reports that it was the PSNI that advised Asda not to remove tributes to UVF man Billy Hunter from outside their Shore Road store: Seaneen McErlane, a daughter of John’s, says her family have no objections to ordinary tributes and cards left in memory of Hunter. She said she had a “major issue” with Asda and police facilitating “a UVF poppy wreath to remain on their premises for a period of a week”. “This was the … Read more

Viewing platform, Orange Hall, Clifton St

The above photo is taken from the New Lodge Facebook page galleries which includes a photo gallery of the build-up to yesterdays Republican Network for Unity’s Henry Joy McCracken commemoration at the cemetery in Henry Place. Whilst the RNU event had been processed via an application to the Parades Commission (and not classified as sensitive), the loyalist protest that developed outside the Orange Orders Clifton Street building was not. The gallery includes some shots of the crowd beginning to gather outside … Read more

We are letting the community manage these [i.e. tributes to UVF man]

I suspect it is embedded in the psyche on the eve of the Covenant commemorations at the end of this month, but loyalist North Belfast, having bared the religious intolerance in it’s soul at St Patrick’s, still appears to be bristling with hostility and animosity. Now the unlikely focus is a supermarket. A former UVF member, William Hunter, who killed two Catholic brothers was at the centre of a 2010 protest over his sacking for telling a Catholic delivery man to … Read more

To the objective, impartial observer, disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behaviour are raised

The families of the Miami Show Band members gave their reaction to the HET’s report today on the killing of three members in 1975. In a detailed statement, the survivors of the attack report that the HET concluded: ‘To the objective, impartial observer, disturbing questions about collusive and corrupt behaviour are raised. The HET review has found no means to assuage or rebut these concerns and that is a deeply troubling matter.’ This is in specific reference to evidence relating … Read more

Death blast lessons

The lengthy excerpt below appeared as an article by Ciaran McKeown in the Irish Press on Monday 6th December 1971 entitled ‘Death blast lesson for the North’. McKeown wrote the piece in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of McGurk’s Bar on the preceding Saturday night, the 4th December, the fortieth anniversary of which falls this weekend. It is worth reading if only to reflect on the lessons which were not learned back in 1971. I’ve retained the layout, including headings from the original and … Read more

Gusty Spence (1933-2011)

Gusty Spence died in hospital this weekend aged 78. He served in the British army for five years and was stationed in Cyprus. He was approached to join the UVF in 1965, and soon became its leader in the Shankill. Under his watch, terror raids by local UVF men resulted in the death of civilian Protestants and Catholics. Spence was arrested shortly after the UVF was declared illegal in June 1966. His daughter Liz describes his arrest in the book … Read more

Gusty Spence dies

The BBC are reporting that former UVF leader Gusty Spence has died in hospital after a long illness. He was 78. TurgonThis author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.